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Bipolar disorder – Guide for the public

Key points about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a disorder of mood, in which a person has episodes of both elevated and depressed mood.

These episodes of major change of mood are associated with distress and impairment of function.

If you think you or someone you care about has bipolar disorder, check with your general practitioner. A referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist may be necessary.

Bipolar disorder is an illness for which there are effective treatments.

Those with bipolar disorder and their families can do positive things to reduce the impact of the illness, even though the illness can interfere with personal autonomy.

People with bipolar disorder can take control of their illness by working with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, psychologists and other health professionals, and utilising the support of family and friends.

More information

The RANZCP has developed the following guides for members of the public interested in bipolar disorder.

Get Bipolar disorder treatment guide for consumers and carers - Australian version [PDF; 732 KB]

Get Bipolar disorder treatment guide for consumers and carers - New Zealand version [PDF; 780 KB]

These guides were written by mental health specialists, based on the best available evidence and with extensive input from consumer and carer representatives.

These guides can:

  • help you to make decisions about treatment
  • outline the value of treatment and what to expect at critical times such as diagnosis, admission and discharge
  • inform you of your rights
  • outline the standard of services you can expect.


Interested in information for clinicians? Visit the Statements and Guidelines page.